A Travellerspoint blog

Kicking off 2014 NYC, Saguaros and the Mile High City.

Or maybe it should say continuing 2014 since I have been delinquent in posting the last few journeys. As many of you have heard I have decided to celebrate turning 40 monthly (much to poor Ger's chagrin). Some months will obviously include horse show highlight destinations like Red Deer and Montana but for the most part I have something cool every month for the year.

I kicked the celebration off in December 2013 with an epic all girls trip to NYC. We rented a loft off Union Square and had the most amazing time. Lots to food, wine and shopping, what more could a girl ask for? NYC was followed by a two week adventure at the end of February beginning of March, White Trash style, to Scottsdale, AZ for the Cactus Reining Classic. My fellow White Trash Reiner and I packed up the truck and trailer along with 3 horses and headed south for a fantastic holiday of horses, guns, dune buggies and even a little culture at the Phoenix Museum.

I headed east for a quick trip to Toronto and Montreal for work at the end or March although it was for work I did manage to fit enough time in to stop by a good friends to ride and acquire a new pony for my growing collection. The new horse in Quebec will warrant a trip or two out East this summer to ride.

I'm sitting at the airport again, this time headed to Denver for a CFA Conference. I'm actually quite looking forward to it as I have never been to Denver and I have heard great things. I have my runners so I can log some miles in preparation for the first big journey of 2014, our trip to China and the Great Wall Half Marathon. Yup, I decided to ring in 40 with a half marathon on the Great Wall. Seemed like a great idea at the time but 5 weeks out with very little training and it is starting to seem daunting and scary!

We leave May 10th for our 3 week journey to the Orient. I have some training to get done between now and then so that I'm not crippled by the half marathon. When I get back from Denver I will get our visas together and gather the final items for the journey. I plan on blogging the trip again so stay tuned if you are interested and I will do my best.

Until next time,
G^2

Posted by imalazyj 12:34

Polar Bear Safari

A Canadian Bucket-List Item

Wow, where does one start other than I guess to express how grateful I am that I have the opportunity to experience so many parts of the world. I am a bit of loser, likely not a surprise for those who have met me, what might be a surprise (other than to Ger) is I love Reader's Digest (old form that is, the new form sucks to be honest) but I read it every month pretty much cover to cover (I get my ass kicked by Word Power every friggin month!). Years ago I read an article about the polar bears in Churchill, thus, Churchill made the list. While traveling earlier this year our friends introduced us to the Calgary Zoo travel programs (check them out) and we stumbled across a one-day trip to Churchill. Fly out of Calgary charter to Churchill (at an ugodly hour in the morning), spend the day, return home at a decent hour, same day. Brilliant! So for my 39th birthday that is what Ger got me (I had to wait till November because that is when the migration occurs). So our weekend started with an amazing birthday dinner for a dear friend, a few hours shut eye and off we went.

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First, I wish we could fly charter every time, no hassle, show up, get on, fly. Civilized. 114 people on board of all walks of the life, people traveling through Canada, Canadians traveling Canada, and allot of Calgarians, young, old, in-between. Likely the most diverse group I have ever traveled with. We had two guides, Brian Keating joined this group, and I have to say his passion for wildlife is contagious. Being led and taught by people who have spent their life truly pursuing their passion is inspiring. Brian was our guide on our Tundra Bungy (38 per Buggy so we 3 machines) and he truly added to the experience.

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Chruchill, MB is a place like no other I have ever been. Small doesn't capture it. Isolated doesn't even begin to describe it (and it has 2 regular scheduled flights a day from Winnipeg). No road in or out, everything comes by rail, plane or ship (except in the winter when the Hudson Bay is frozen). In the summer, it is a massive port because it can take ships larger than the Panama Canal and the St. Lawrence Seaway. The last ship of the season was sitting in Harbor as we arrived, waiting to be loaded with grain before setting out on it voyage. Stranger yet is the important role Churchill played in the Cold War. It was a major Canadian Miltary Base, thus it's tiny, weeny airport can land any plane that flies (a UA flight in the 90's emergency landed there because Churchill could handle it). There are numerous abandoned structures (rocket launchers, military buildings) sitting empty, deteriorated and well, cold looking. These days it's fame is due to the polar bears who migrate through the region from mid October to the end of November as they wait for the ice to freeze on Hudson's Bay (and occasionally try to eat people http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/11/01/two_polar_bears_shot_after_attack_in_churchill_manitoba.html).

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I apologize now for the random shit in this blog, my head is bursting after a day, I am Canadian after all and it was truly fantastic to spend a day soaking in some of my own heritage. Why does the Hudson Bay freeze? Due to the low salt content from all the fresh water that drains into it. Why does the ice come early? Due to the winds and circulation of the current which is counter clockwise. Yup, you can imagine this trip feed me full of useless knowledge which I loved! Population of Churchill, 1200-1400 in summer, 850 in the winter (can you imagine the stories these people can tell about their neighbors!) Tourism is 50% of the revenue (6 weeks a year!) and tv crews love Churchill (NBC, CBC, Animal Planet all there) because it is the only place in the world you can get this close to the bears. No where else in the world do they migrate.

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Okay, shut up and on to the bears. The first couple sightings caused some alarm I won't lie. The bears were a long, long ways off in the distance. Keep in mind, I am spoilt, I have been to Africa so a safari means the animals are spitting distance away so I started to adjust my expectations. Not even half hour an hour later my original expectations were exceeded by a mile. We got close to 3-4 bears, really, really close. We saw somewhere between 19-21 bears in total (it's hard to differentiate if it is the same bear at a different spot even for the experts). Polar bears are amazing animals. Males are huge (up to 1500 pounds), females or sows are half that size. They have amazing sent of smell (can smell seals several feet below the ice and tourists in tundra buggies), are amazing swimmers, and are closer related to grizzlies. If a polar bear and a grizz mate their hybrid offspring is fertile, proving their genetic closeness.

As you can discern from my rambling I learned allot, loved every minute of it. If you can, and you are Canadian, go. It is amazing to see Hudson's Bay, period. But for those of us that grew up around brown bears and maybe even grizzlies, go see these unique beasts. Hell I may even add Grizzly Safari to my ever growing list because I am fairly confident I know squat about them now compared to the Polar Bear. The problem with crossing shit of the list, is every time I go somewhere I add at least 3-5 more places I would like to go.

The trip home was awesome, free wine (and big solo cup style glasses). Half decent food and a plane full of people who were in awe of what they saw. All in all a great birthday present, well worth the wait.

Until next time,
G^2

Random stuff:
- Churchill has a hospital with 25 beds, woman in Nunavut aren't supposed to give birth there (hard to get to them in case of trouble) so they travel to Churchill, quasi embassy situation, if born in Churchill you still get a Nunavut birth certificate.
- there is still military close, we saw a fighter jet practicing (that can't be cheap to take that bird up and play liKe Mavrick)
- Female polar bear reproduction or cycling is induced not regular like other mammals. If she has offspring she won't cycle. Which is why the males try to kill the young, so they can "induce" her.
- Penguins and polar bears do NOT exist together, anywhere.
- Polar bears live in Canada, Greenland, Denmark, Norway and Russia.
- Males live to there early 20's, Females 30's - mainly because males fight with each other, sustain injuries, and die (females are smarter!).

Posted by imalazyj 23:20 Archived in Canada Tagged bear polar

DC to MJ

A bit of a whirlwind week, home, work, load horses and head east to the metropolis of Moose Jaw for the last reining show of the year. It's an extra special show for me as on June 16, 2013, my pony, Revi shattered his splint bone on his front leg and I was convinced that would be the day we laid him to rest. Low and behold after allot of people's help wrapping and caring for him (Thank you Jess, Christa and Catherine), a very good vet (Thank you Dr. Scott), lots of words of encouragement and yes, lots of vet bills, he is sound and back in the show pen.

My traveling partner and I split the long, straight, flat and high consumption of fuel drive (funny how much more fuel burn when your average speed can be 20km/hr higher than normal) we arrived late Thursday night in Moose Jaw. We grabbed a couple hours sleep and got ready to show, Jess schooled, getting ready for her big run Sat and Rev and I put down the first run of a two-go class.
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After a day of stimulating reining at the Golden Mile Arena we decided to absorb some Saskatchewan culture with the Passage to Fortune. While the theatrics were cheesy the information is highly worthwhile for Canadians, turns out we weren't so perfect either. We always frown upon the horrors other cultures commit on people, Canada has a few blemishes of their own.

After the completion of the railroad where Canada seriously exploited foreign labour, namely Chinese, Canadians made life so uncomfortable, this ethnic group found it more desirable to work for slave wages and stay out of sight or underground. The tunnels were built to access the steam boilers of the various buildings (think of the steam you see coming out of manholes in NYC same thing) but in 1885 (after the railway was done) into the early 1900's people worked and lived in them. The tour evoked a funny feeling as I have visited many cultures and always been so thankful to be Canadian, blending pot and all but it became evident thousands suffered here as well to earn the rights and freedoms we enjoy today.

We ended our day with a fantastic plate of ribs and chicken at Hickory and crashed hard by 9 pm (I am to old for only 4 hours sleep).

A decent night sleep must have been what the doctor ordered as Jess and her Blue 'Chip' investment slid into the Champion position in the NRHA Non Pro class and Rev and managed to put together another decent run to capture the overall Champion title in the NRHA NP 3&4 year old Futurity class. A great end to the reining season, I am so thrilled and grateful to be able to show my wing-nut horse again.

A super fun show we are now loaded up and screaming through the prairies again. We just passed the site of the Cypress Hills Massacre, the site of a mass murder that occurred on June 2, 1873. It involved a group of American Bison hunters, American Wolfers, American and Canadian whisky traders, 'freighters', and a camp of Nakoda people. A total of 24 people died apparently over some missing horses. I can't make this stuff up.

I really enjoyed the reining season this year with my traveling partner and am looking forward to our next journey in February to Arizona for the Cactus Classic.

Until next time,
G^1

Posted by imalazyj 15:30

Thankful and Reflective in D.C.

I sit in our condo snacking on cheese and crackers and enjoying a glass of wine reflecting on our time in Washington. The city is beautiful despite the fact is full of a bunch of politicans. It is young and vibrant (median age is 33.9). Great food, lots of green space, interesting buildings and so much knowledge available for acquisition.

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Yesterday we hit both ends of the cultural experience with Van Gogh and Rock the Red. The hockey game was great, Colorado is on a roll, 5 straight now and I always love the vigor that Americans support their sports. We somehow managed to get fantastic seats, center lines 4 rows from the bench that just added to the experience. A great night.

Today we took our time and headed to Arlington Cemetery. The cemetery occupies 640 acres and over 400,000 graves from those who gave their life for many of the Freedoms we enjoy today in North America. Our first 'famous' grave stop was JFK's grave which is flanked by his 2 unborn children and Jackie O. From there we wandered to the Tombs of the Unknowns and witnessed the Changing of the Guard and the Changing of the Wreath. The walking of the mat is meticulously executed (21 seconds east, turn north 21seconds, 21 steps, 21 seconds east, turn south 21 seconds, 21 steps, repeat). It was a sobering ritual to watch and timely given we are headed to Thanksgiving Day in Canada.

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After a quiet and reflective few hours wandering Arlington we refueled with an amazing Italian lunch which will also be our Thanksgiving Dinner (I got a Brunello with lunch so my day was complete!). We spent the remainder of the day walking off our lunch and stopped by the Lincoln Memorial which had been stormed by the veterans this am and had been briefly open. How ironic is that the people who fought for our freedom are fighting again for our rights on home soil? We joined the numerous others and hopped the barricade to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the FDR Memorial, perhaps the politicians should do the same and remind themselves what these great men created for us.

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Regardless of the shutdown it was a fantastic day, no rain and lots of walking appreciating our health and ability to appreciate the monuments.

Ger and I have decided that we will return as there are a couple of museums that we would like to visit. Namely, the American History, National Archives and Aviation. No idea when but D.C. remains on the list, perhaps tied to a Redskins game?

Thankful today for my family, friends and especially Ger plus grateful for our health and ability to experience so many different things through our globe trotting two weeks at a time.

Until next time,
G^2

Posted by imalazyj 15:53 Archived in USA

D.C. Greenall style

Another splendid day in Washington, the rain has stopped and it is almost t-shirt weather. After a leisurely morning of coffee and breakfast at our quaint abode we headed out to the Phillips Collection, a private museum full of priceless works and newly opened (today was opening day) never seen together collection of Van Gogh's.

The permanent collection had many noteworthy paintings including a fantastic Renoir, Monet and several Picasso's (I don't get Picasso I will likely be shunned but some are just plain ugly). The highlight of the museum was the Van Gogh exhibit, Repetitions, which included several versions of the same painting (Van Gogh may have been a touch OCD along with plain plum crazy). It was truly spectacular to see the paintings with their slight differences hanging side by side. We had once seen multiple versions of the Sunflower together in Amsterdam but this exhibit included numerous versions of Joseph Roulin (The Postman) and his wife Madame Augustine Roulin.

After a very cultural morning topped off with a spectacular seafood lunch (and bottle of Pinot) we headed back down to the National Mall to show Ger some of the monuments he hadn't had the chance yet to see. The First Amendment right was being acted upon far more liberally today and there were droves of people wandering through the park. Of course I garnered more useless tidbits including Ab's hands in his memorial are very life like and if you know sign language evidently his hands form an A and an L, urban myth but the books say the sculptures son was deaf. I still can't verify this because while you see the monument it was heavily guarded today so you can't get close to Ab himself.

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We spent some more time at the World War II Memorial which prompted considerable questions to why there where pillars with Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and US Virgin Islands on them. Turns out they were and some still are commonwealth jurisdictions of the USA. In addition, at the time of World War II Alaska and Hawaii were territories and not states (which is also why on the Lincoln monument their names are on the stairs and not the top). Alaska was the 49th state in 1959 and Hawaii was the 50th.

Another tidbit garnered as we walked past several embassies today, how many are there in D.C.? Turns out there are 179 in Washington - wow! After a long day of walking and exploring we are now nestled back in out condo with our feet up and a glass wine prepping for our next cultural adventure, the hockey game!

So yup, our day starts with Van Gogh and ends with Ovechkin cause that's how we roll.

Until next time,
G^2

Posted by imalazyj 14:50 Archived in USA

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